Rays enter the season with questionable pitching

by Gary Shelton on February 21, 2021

in general

With 15 career wins, can Glasnow be an ace?/JEFFREY S. KING

Sunday, 4 a.m.

The dealing is almost done now. The Rays have traded away money. They've brought in reclamation projects. They have molded a brand new pitching staff.

And from here, the impression is this:

Not enough wings. Too many prayers.

Can the Rays, a team that has been built on the idea that those guys can make the other team's hitters look worse than this team's, have another successful year with what is left? Charlie Morton is gone. Blake Snell is traded. And pitching coach Kyle Snyder has a lot of work to do.

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Often, when a team reaches the World Series, it responds with a big signing designed to get over the hump. Not the Rays, who said farewell to Morton, third in the Cy Young voting in 2019, and to Snell, who was first in 2018. Granted, the two were scheduled to make a combined $26 million this season, which is pricey for the Rays.

Instead, they have gathered arms who they hope can take advantage of bounce-back seasons and improved matchups. They have gathered fix-it projects and unproven arms.

There are yesterday's pitchers: retread Chris Archer (who has three wins in each of his last three years), 40-year-old Kent Hill (who has six wins the last two years combined) and Michael Wacha (who won once last year). There are tomorrow's pitchers: Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz. There are injured pitchers: Brendan McKay and Yonny Chirinos.

There are so many questions for a division winner. Is Tyler Glasnow ready to be the team's ace with 15 career wins? Can Nick Anderson overcome the poor performance he had in the post-season? Will Chris Archer finally decide that showing off his stuff isn't as important as winning games?

"I think it's fair to assume that we'll find ways to be creative, but to say (today) hat we know exactly how it's going to unfold would be wrong of us,” Cash said. “We're excited, really excited, about the potential of our pitching group and how it comes together."

Still, general manager Erik Neander speaks carefully.

"We’re embracing the uncertainly of this season," Neander said. "We're operating with humility and confident these guys will be about winning games."

The Rays talk glowingly about Hill. On the other hand, he's older than Archer. Wacha was impressive early in his career, but he's been lost, too. Will Chris Mazza be a weapon.

It's a strange enough season. Teams have never come off a 60-game season before. How does that predict a 162-game follow-up?

Of course, if you understand the Rays and their money juggling, you can't be surprised to see Morton and Snell go. They would have made $26 million together this year. Morton is 37. Snell didn't get past the sixth inning at all last year.

But the problem isn't that they left. It's that there is no proven quality to replace a guy who won the 2018 Cy Young (Snell) and one who finished third in 2019 (Morton).

I've said it before. It's a difficult thing to be a Rays' fan. Before you can finish celebrating a season of overachievement, you're worried if your team can get anyone out. Certainly, it is a worry if the team can get enough outs.

So, once again, a Rays fan will enter the season like a kid slips into a cold swimming pool.

And if this team really does make a run at the division, someone in the Rays' organization will have to be very, very smart.

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